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Methone, an egg in Saturn orbit?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/05/21 02:58 CDT | 8 comments

Cassini obtained its first high-resolution images of Methone on May 20, 2012. Methone is one of the smallest regular moons of Saturn, having a diameter of only about 3 kilometers. It was the first moon that Cassini discovered, very early in Cassini's mission at Saturn, in 2004.

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Pretty pictures from Cassini's recent Dione flyby

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/05/04 05:44 CDT

Cassini performed its last of three close encounters with Enceladus for 2012 two days ago, and followed the flyby with some spectacular images of Dione.

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Titan, Dead or Alive? A Debate

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/05/02 10:32 CDT

A lively discussion and debate between planetary polymaths Ralph Lorenz and Jeffrey Moore about Titan, hosted by the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, moderated by David Grinspoon.

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Ski Helene?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/04/20 01:01 CDT | 2 comments

I enthused about these Helene images the first time they came down from Cassini, and then forgot about them, and then was thrilled anew a couple of weeks ago when Daniel Macháček posted his version, processed from data published by the Cassini imaging team on April 1.

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Pretty pictures from Cassini's weekend flybys of Enceladus and Tethys

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/04/16 03:11 CDT

Cassini flew past both Enceladus and Tethys on April 14. Here's a cool animation of its approach to Enceladus' plumes, and a pretty global picture of Tethys.

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Pretty picture: Janus and Saturn

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/04/04 12:15 CDT

In the last few days as it's rounded periapsis in its current orbit of Saturn, Cassini has taken a lot of great photos of Saturn's moons. One series of photos was taken from pretty close to Janus, a moon about a third the diameter of Enceladus that orbits between the F and G rings. And among those, several were taken with the moon sitting in front of Saturn.

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What Saturn's moons can tell us about comets (Notes from LPSC 2012)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/04/03 05:20 CDT

My notes on a two-part presentation by collaborators Jim Richardson and David Minton about the sizes of things in the Kuiper belt, a story they told by looking at Saturn's moons. How does that work? What connects Saturn's moons to the Kuiper belt is craters.

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Notes from the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference: Making Cassini's radar images prettier

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/03/26 02:12 CDT

One of the more exciting talks last week was given by Antoine Lucas about his work with Oded Aharonson "denoising" Cassini radar images of Titan. Cassini's radar images are superior to the camera photos in revealing fine details and topography on Titan's surface, but they do suffer from a random noise component that makes the pictures look snowy. Antoine and Oded have developed a method for removing much of this noise.

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Notes from Titan talks at the 2012 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/03/20 02:16 CDT

One of the topics I found most exciting yesterday was a series of talks on Titan's climate. Bob West showed how Titan's detached haze has shifted with time. Zibi Turtle presented about how Titan's weather has changed with these seasonal changes. Jason Barnes followed up Zibi's talk -- which was based on Cassini camera images -- with a study of the same regions using data from Cassini's imaging spectrometer, trying to figure out what was going on with that brightening. Ralph Lorenz talked about rainfall rates on Titan. Jeff Moore asked: what if Titan hasn't always had a thick atmosphere?

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Pretty picture: A study in ringlight

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/03/08 02:27 CST

Clearly, this is Saturn, and its rings, and if you look closer you can see a tiny circle, on top of the rings, which is Mimas, and two stars in the background. It should look weird to you that while the rings are bright, Mimas is a black dot. What is happening here? Nearly everything in this picture is lit by light that has not arrived directly from the Sun.

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Iapetus' peerless equatorial ridge

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/02/22 01:49 CST

A new paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets by Dombard, Cheng, McKinnon, and KayI claims to explain how Iapetus' equatorial ridge formed. Cool!�

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Pretty picture: Enceladus, in lovely color

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/02/06 02:38 CST

Here's an awesome picture to start off the week. The data came from Cassini's flyby of Enceladus on January 31, 2011; it was part of Cassini's January 2012 data release.�

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Watch this week's Google+ Space Hangout

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/01/19 03:12 CST

This week's lineup is a largely astronomical crowd so most of the conversation concerned dark matter and boiling exoplanets and imaging the black hole at the center of our galaxy.

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Evaporites on Titan

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/01/12 04:33 CST

Evaporites form on planetary surfaces when dissolved chemical solids precipitate out of saturated solution as their liquid solvent evaporates and, until recently, were known to exist only on Earth and Mars. This article from the IAG Planetary Geomorphology Working Group describes the third planetary instance of evaporite, discovered on Saturn's moon Titan.

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Pretty picture: Saturn, a big moon, and a teeny one

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/01/09 11:23 CST

A recent view from Cassini of Saturn with its largest moon (Titan) and one of its small ringmoons, Prometheus.

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Pretty pictures from Cassini's recent Dione flyby

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/22 11:52 CST

Cassini flew close by Dione on December 12 and, as usual, the close pass provided opportunities for lots of dramatic photos, not just of Dione, but of other moons wandering by in the background.

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More radar images of icy moons from Cassini: Iapetus, Enceladus, and Rhea

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/21 12:10 CST

When I posted about the really cool Cassini SAR images of Enceladus a few weeks ago, I initially wrote that this was the first-ever SAR image of an icy moon other than Titan. Several people (some readers and two members of the Cassini science team!) corrected that statement: Cassini has performed SAR imaging of other icy moons (including Enceladus) before.

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What do we know about planetary rings? Quite a lot, actually!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/15 11:18 CST

A summary of a new article by Matt Tiscareno about planetary ring systems that reviews the known ring systems of the four giant planets and the prospects for ring systems yet to be discovered.

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Pretty picture: Mimas scuttles behind Dione

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/12 06:36 CST

Images from the Cassini spacecraft's flyby of Dione.

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First-ever high-resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar image of Enceladus

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/01 07:22 CST

On the November 6, 2011 flyby of Enceladus -- the third such flyby in just a few weeks -- the Cassini mission elected to take a SAR swath instead of using the optical instruments for once. So here it is: the first-ever SAR swath on Enceladus. In fact, the only other places we've ever done SAR imaging are Earth, the Moon, Venus, Iapetus, and Titan.

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